La Fortaleza, or the Fortress, as well as being
known as the Palacio de Santa Catalina is the official residence
of the governor of Puerto Rico, constructed between 1533 and
1540, to defend the harbor of San Juan and is the oldest
executive mansion in the New World, listed by UNESCO in 1983 as
part of the World Heritage Site, "La Forteza and San Juan
National Historic Site. The Chapel of Santa Catalina would be
incorporated into the walls of the building during a 1640
reconstruction, that had been originally located outside the
walls and then demolished to be moved; and that caused it to
become Santa Catalina's palace. It was the first defensive fort
constructed for the city, and become the first in a series of
military structures that would be built to protect the city that
included the Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristobel.
It was authorized by Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor, to be
used for defense against the Carib Indians and the other
European nations that sailed the Caribbean. Originally, it would
have four walls that encompassed an interior patio with a
marvelous circular tower that became known as the Homage Tower.
From its summit, the governor, following a military tradition,
would take oaths of fidelity to the king and queen of Spain; and
later a second tower would be built and named the Austral Tower.
Today, that former complex includes a number of attached
structures with formal living quarters on the second floor and
private quarters on the third. It looks out over the high city
walls that face the bay and on the north perimeter of the house
there are sheltered gardens and an excellent pool. In 1960, it
would be named a United States National Historic Landmark.